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Department of Mathematics & Statistics

COMO204 Differential Equations

Second Semester
18 points


Course Information

This course is an introduction to the theory and applications of ordinary differential equations (ODEs) which are fundamental tools used in modelling and solving problems in applied mathematics, economics, engineering, physical sciences and life sciences. At the completion of the paper students will:

Paper details

The principal focus of COMO 204 is to develop mathematical skills for working with differential equations.

We study techniques which can be applied to obtain analytical solutions of differential equations, as well as tools for working with equations for which no straight-forward solutions can be obtained. We discuss issues that arise when modelling with differential equations, and introduce powerful tools for analysing differential equations using computers.

In real situations it may be necessary to model sudden changes, e.g. when a switch is turned on or off, or a wind suddenly blows, or a guitar string is plucked; we learn how to do this using the Laplace transform, which conveniently turns a differential equation into an algebraic one that can easily be solved.

Potential students

This paper is strongly recommended for all mathematics and physics students. Differential equations appear in diverse fields such as commerce, engineering and sciences. This paper is fundamental for any work in applied mathematics or computational modelling. Simply put this paper will be useful for anyone who wants to work with models or processes that involve changes over time.



COMO101 is recommended but not required

Main topics

Course text (recommended)

The material presented in this course closely follows

This is an excellent, but very expensive text. Copies are available in the library.

Useful references

The following texts are recommended:


Assoc. Prof. Boris Baeumer, Room 213, Department of Mathematics and Statistics


Mondays, Wednesdays and alternate Fridays, 1-2 pm

Computer Labs

Two hour long computer labs on Mondays, 3-5 pm.

You are expected to attend the computer lab session allocated to you and completion of computer lab exercises contributes towards internal assessment.

Matlab software is available on Mathematics and Statistics Computer Labs and also through Student Desktop.

See the following links for introduction to Matlab as well as resources:

Introductory resources

Matlab Language Primer Booklet


One hour long tutorial sessions on Tuesdays, 3-4 pm to assist you with your assignments.

Internal Assessment

The internal assessment mark is made up of the following three components (A, L, T), see the formula for Final mark (F) below.

There are four marked assignments which make up your Assignment mark (A) which in turn is worth 15% of your Final mark (F).

The ten computer lab exercises make up your computer Lab mark (L) which in turn is worth 15% of your Final mark (F).

The midterm test makes up your Test mark (T) which in turn is worth 15% of your Final mark (F).


There are no terms requirement for this course.

Exam format

A three-hour exam with a variety of questions, all of which may be answered. The exam makes up your Exam mark (E) which in turn is worth 55% of your Final mark (F).

Final mark

Your final mark F in the paper will be calculated according to this formula:

F = max(0.55E + 0.15A + 0.15T + 0.15L, 0.7E + 0.15A + 0.15L)


and all quantities are expressed as percentages.

Students must abide by the University’s Academic Integrity Policy

Academic integrity means being honest in your studying and assessments. It is the basis for ethical decision-making and behaviour in an academic context. Academic integrity is informed by the values of honesty, trust, responsibility, fairness, respect and courage.

Academic misconduct is seeking to gain for yourself, or assisting another person to gain, an academic advantage by deception or other unfair means. The most common form of academic misconduct is plagiarism.

Academic misconduct in relation to work submitted for assessment (including all course work, tests and examinations) is taken very seriously at the University of Otago.

All students have a responsibility to understand the requirements that apply to particular assessments and also to be aware of acceptable academic practice regarding the use of material prepared by others. Therefore it is important to be familiar with the rules surrounding academic misconduct at the University of Otago; they may be different from the rules in your previous place of study.

Any student involved in academic misconduct, whether intentional or arising through failure to take reasonable care, will be subject to the University’s Student Academic Misconduct Procedures which contain a range of penalties.

If you are ever in doubt concerning what may be acceptable academic practice in relation to assessment, you should clarify the situation with your lecturer before submitting the work or taking the test or examination involved.

Types of academic misconduct are as follows:


The University makes a distinction between unintentional plagiarism (Level One) and intentional plagiarism (Level Two).

  • Although not intended, unintentional plagiarism is covered by the Student Academic Misconduct Procedures. It is usually due to lack of care, naivety, and/or to a lack to understanding of acceptable academic behaviour. This kind of plagiarism can be easily avoided.
  • Intentional plagiarism is gaining academic advantage by copying or paraphrasing someone elses work and presenting it as your own, or helping someone else copy your work and present it as their own. It also includes self-plagiarism which is when you use your own work in a different paper or programme without indicating the source. Intentional plagiarism is treated very seriously by the University.

Unauthorised Collaboration

Unauthorised Collaboration occurs when you work with, or share work with, others on an assessment which is designed as a task for individuals and in which individual answers are required. This form does not include assessment tasks where students are required or permitted to present their results as collaborative work. Nor does it preclude collaborative effort in research or study for assignments, tests or examinations; but unless it is explicitly stated otherwise, each students answers should be in their own words. If you are not sure if collaboration is allowed, check with your lecturer..


Impersonationis getting someone else to participate in any assessment on your behalf, including having someone else sit any test or examination on your behalf.


Falsificationis to falsify the results of your research; presenting as true or accurate material that you know to be false or inaccurate.

Use of Unauthorised Materials

Unless expressly permitted, notes, books, calculators, computers or any other material and equipment are not permitted into a test or examination. Make sure you read the examination rules carefully. If you are still not sure what you are allowed to take in, check with your lecturer.

Assisting Others to Commit Academic Misconduct

This includes impersonating another student in a test or examination; writing an assignment for another student; giving answers to another student in a test or examination by any direct or indirect means; and allowing another student to copy answers in a test, examination or any other assessment.

Further information

While we strive to keep details as accurate and up-to-date as possible, information given here should be regarded as provisional. Individual lecturers will confirm teaching and assessment methods.